Well boys and girls, here goes..... my first proper match report, and what a match to report on!
Setting off good an' early I arranged to meet my mate Patrick somewhere in the East End. He duly found himself a burger at the Golden Arches in Whitechapel, while I made do with a foul ham and cheese pannini from Waterloo Station.
My only previous trip to a game with Patrick this season had ended in a humbling 3-1 defeat at Reading. And then I had to drive four hours to Sheffield! No such luck(!) this time. A couple of pints ahead of the game at The Blind Beggar - a strange sort of pub, but a good one on the whole - and we were on our way to the cesspit that is Upton Park. Me and the East End really don't get on.
We were a couple of minutes late in - those two pints had done their work rather quicker than I'd expected! - and greeted with West Ham attacking. Now that definitely wasn't part of the plan. As the half progressed we began to assert ourselves, and while not dominating the game, we certainly looked sharp compared to many away games so far this season.
It came as something of a surprise then to find ourselves a goal down less than twenty minutes in completely against the run of play. A decent strike by Noble, who I'd never heard of, but Patrick informed me was a bit of a prospect. Unfortunately, the goal did nothing to help the mood of the bloke to my left who sounded like he should've been in Grumpy Old Men!
Soon after the Irons were lucky to keep the lead when Robert Green (who I thought was Roy Carroll having missed the line-ups!) pulled off a double save, first denying Bowyer (I think) and then Berbatov with a snap shot on the rebound. However, the tide had turned and the Irons came into the game more as the half progressed, although never really threatening.
Moody Bloke's mood got considerably worse when Tevez scored what he must have thought was his first goal ever of all time judging by the celebration. We didn't think it was a free-kick and my sister - who had passed up the £40 ticket - confirmed as much watching it on Sky at home. However, she may be slightly biased! Cracking free kick, admittedly, and they always look better when they go in off the bar, but referee..... what were you doing giving it in the first place?!
By now Moody Bloke was having a dig at every Spurs player. Robbo, Lee, Chimbonda, Tainio, Jenas, even Berbatov! Idiot. His most vitriolic though was saved for Ghaly, who I have to say, had a shocker. Patrick was eating his words at half time having said he thought Ghaly was quite good. Today, he was simply rubbish.
As the boys trudged off at the half there was a general feeling that we could get back into it if we struck back early, but that would have to wait till the end of the half time entertainment. And what entertainment it was..... errrrr..... no. Small club, rubbish half time entertainment. We were treated to the mascots of the Chinese Olympic Games in Beijing shinning up some pole and larking about. Based on the West Ham performance today, they may find themselves employed in an effort to get out of the Championship next season!
However, piss poor half time entertainment done with, the boys marched back on and duly delivered. The number of times I've sat and watched us capitulate at the beginning of the second half at home (usually to ManUre!). What a great feeling to stick it back to someone!
In fairness, not having seen any replays, I thought Bowyer may just have nicked the ball, but the referee being well dodgy on a large number of decisions happily for us pointed to the spot, and Defoe delivered! We were right back in it and totally in control. It was only a matter of time before the equaliser came, and what a good piece of play to set Tainio up for it. We went mental! The West Ham fans - who had been about as quiet as I remember the Gooners usually being at Highbury - were looking sad. Very sad!
Berbatov was turning in another fine performance, and Huddlestone was really making a big difference for us. Ghaly had clearly been dispensed with as Jol must have agreed he was having a stinker. Stalteri's introduction was a bit less clear cut and I was initially a bit miffed as to why we'd push Chimbonda forward to right wing, but it actually worked pretty well.
Unfortunately we failed to build on this and went rather quiet, allowing West Ham back into the game. Well, I say West Ham, what I actually mean is allowing Tevez back into the game, because let's be honest, without Tevez, West Ham were awful.
A shame really that he was the one to float in the free kick that bloody Zomora (bloody bloody Zomora!) rose highest to head home. All of a sudden the stick we'd been giving to the Irons reversed when they finally managed to find their voices. And yes, Moody Bloke was going off on one again.
However, we kept going and won that free kick. Now, my personal opinion is that our best free kick taker is Danny Murphy, yet he never takes free kicks, even when on the pitch! So I turned to Patrick as Berbatov lined it up and said "Shame we haven't got anybody who can take free kicks." Bang! 3-3. Come on!
Now, I'd like to say that was it, their confidence was shot and we knew we'd win. But actually they came at us again and it was the counter attack that did it for us. Silly them! They should've shut up shop at 3-2 and 3-3 at worst, but hey, you wanna go for it, you gotta be willing to pay if you get caught on the counter.
As Defoe ran free and worked himself enough space to shoot we faintly hoped he'd bang it in. But we hadn't thought that Green would spill it, and thought even less that Stalteri would be there to pounce on the rebound!!! It went mad. We went mad. West Ham went home!
Absolutely tremendous boys. Well done. Not much fun to have to take it on the chin from West Ham three times, but we got what we deserved out of the game in the end. The celebrations were unreal. Even the players joined in!
Some really good performances again - Chimbonda, Dawson, Gardner, Tainio, Huddlestone, and (for the second week running) particularly Berbatov. He is a superstar! Patrick and I were also very, very impressed by Taarabt. His first three touches were sheer class. I look forward to seeing a lot more of him.
To cap the day off, we headed the wrong way out of Upton Park, up the Barking road, all the way to bloody Barking station! No matter. When you've won 4-3 away at West Ham, its bearable! I suspect they are doomed, and I hope we continue our fine run of form next Sunday at the Bridge. More next week. Ta ta for now.
Oh, and I remained surprisingly dry throughout the day. Result!